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by Peter Moskos

January 10, 2011

Tragedy in Baltimore

Plain clothed friendly fire police shooting.

[please don't post stupid or disrespectful comments, or respond to those who do.]

22 comments:

MisguidedPotential said...

I just read the story and am not sure what to think. Did the dispatcher state that the officer in trouble was plain clothed? Maybe the plain clothes officer should have requested backup before getting involved at all, but then again it sounds like the situation escalated really quick after attempts to diffuse the then minor issues.

Gotti Rules said...

Pete,
This truly is a tragedy. I worked with Officer William Torbit and he was a great guy.
REST IN PEACE OFFICER WILLIAM TORBIT YOU ARE A TRUE HERO AND WILL BE MISSED.

Cleanville Tziabatz said...

Four thoughts:

1. 41 bullets.

2. Based on what we know so far, this case seems like both a crime (by the officers involved) and a tragedy (for the killed and wounded and those loved them). I seem to recall a thread a month back or so where Prof. Moskos said that he had mixed feelings about the need for police to clear their backdrop, but my feelings are less mixed. Police should clear their backdrop, and those who instruct police should teach them to, and those who work with those who teach police tactics should make sure their colleagues know about this case and its perceived import.

3. This story makes me wonder what would have happened if a CCW bystander in Tucson had shot Loughner. I wonder if there would have been even more than 41 rounds fired by the police and what the consequences of that would have been.

4. Between Officers Stamp, Tshamba and now this, I am beginning to see a pattern here.

(170 words)

suz said...

I am a LEO/military/EMS supporter and family member. That said, those last two paragraphs speak VOLUMES.

"Tragic" may be a misleading term, as it implies something over which nobody had any control.

Anonymous said...

http://www.wbaltv.com/r/26453680/detail.html

Anonymous said...

The notion that this is murder is absurd.

It all comes down to a plain clothes black officer discharging a gun in the midst of a violent all black crowd.

The police officers who shot him must feel absolutely horrible for killing one of their own.

Until all the facts are out and the investigation is complete, its wrong to talk about these officers in hind sight, nobody was there besides the people who were ACTUALLY there.

The notion these officers who put their lives on the line every day would murder one of their own is horrible and sickening.

Johnny Law said...

I love how Cleanville keeps mentioning the number of shots like it means anything.

This was a tragic mistake but it is nothing close to murder.

Anonymous said...

Which one is not close to murder, the death of the civilian or the death of the policeman?

Johnny Law said...

Both

Anonymous said...

Not sure how you would know that unless and until an independent investigation is done.

Is there some law that says onduty police categorically can't commit murder?

If an innocent civilian (legally carrying) has shot up Officer Torbit like that, trying to protect the crowd, where would the civilian be now and what would the charges be?

If a civilian (legally carrying) had been in Torbit's shoes (and had not gotten killed) then where would he be now and what would the charges be?

Johnny Law said...

"Is there some law that says onduty police categorically can't commit murder?"

Nope but this case isn't murder either. A dead body doesn't always = murder.

"If an innocent civilian (legally carrying) has shot up Officer Torbit like that, trying to protect the crowd, where would the civilian be now and what would the charges be?"

Dunno but the police have a DUTY to protect life. If they see a guy in street clothes shooting a gun then they have a DUTY to act. I don't see how you can blame them for not knowing the guy was a cop.

"If a civilian (legally carrying) had been in Torbit's shoes (and had not gotten killed) then where would he be now and what would the charges be?"

It all depends on when the gun was pulled and what his intent was. Again, the police have a DUTY to protect life. A cop is supposed to break up fights. That is their job.

Jeff said...

From a follow up article:

"Police commanders also are reviewing whether officers who are not in uniform should respond to calls involving large crowds or disturbances."

I think this is the problem. How can a plain clothes officer, by himself (or even with other plain clothed officers), wade into a crowd to break up a fight or try to restore order, and have both the crowd and other officers realize its a cop.

People that would normally respond to a uniformed cop in those situations may ignore a what appears to be just some guy giving orders. And if that just some guy, grabs them and tries to restrain them, they may try to defend themselves when they normally wouldnt.

Even waving your badge around doesnt mean you are a cop.. as evidence, my favorite idiot with a badge who is not a cop..

http://images1.fanpop.com/images/photos/1800000/Dog-dog-the-bounty-hunter-1852385-1280-1024.jpg

Johnny Law said...

I agree Jeff. Plainclothes officers should not get involved in making arrests unless there is a serious immediate danger.

Anonymous said...

Black cops should not be in plain clothes period. Unless they are undercover, they need to be in full uniform. Other cops and civilians think they are going to be robbed, carjacked, or shot by these cops. Political correctness kills.

Molly said...

Peter - how do you feel about the BPD's decision to do away with plainclothes officers? http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/crime/blog/2011/01/police_ban_plainclothes_extern.html#more

PCM said...

Police uniforms are good. I've always believe that police should wear them unless there's a very specific reason why they shouldn't. And even then, police should ask if such a non-uniformed task (I'm thinking more of undercover here) is the most productive use of police resources.

To me it's silly that being plainclothed is considered a perk and promotion. It further demeans patrol and the majority of officers who have to wear uniforms. And besides, cops (myself included) aren't the best dressers. Nine out of ten police don't look nearly as suave in plainclothes as they think they do. They should have banned plainclothes the second time a cop wore a suit with white socks.

On the other hand, there are times detectives are snooping around that it can be a benefit people aren't seen talking to a uniformed police officer (though it's usually never too hard to out a plainclothed cop). But still, in general, I'm pro-uniform.

(Plus, I'm still P.O.ed about the time a Hopkins E.R. nurse said on the phone, in front of me, "I've got a uniform here." I'm not "a uniform," motherf*cker! I'm a police officer. ...And I probably went to a better school than you did!)

Anonymous said...

Does BPD have a "color of the day" like the NYPD does?

PCM said...

I've read they're considering it. But honestly, a color of the day is not the solution. (Given street fashions and what cops are looking for when confronting dangerous situations. Regarding colors, red and blue and gold are out. So what's left? A cop with a pink cravat?)

Anonymous said...

A lot of officers in New York have an obvious band around their sleeve. This style has yet to become popular with inner-city youth.

Notice what the officer is wearing at 1:54 of the video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgQY70MYvbc

It's not a perfect system, but it's better than nothing.

Anonymous said...

The benefits of a plain clothes unit cannot be understood until you are riding with the 'cream of the crop' of a plainclothes unit.

All of you that say plainclothes officers should not be involved in any arrests blah blah have never been in the Eastern District of Baltimore, or any late night thug club for that matter.

When sh!t hits the fan like it did that night, every officer possible is responding to help their brothers. Once again, the notion that they would MURDER one of their one is sickening and absurd. I wish you could speak with the officers involved to understand their pain.....

Anonymous said...

No one is saying that they knew that he was a policeman when they put all those shots in him. If it winds up being murder then it will be because they put too many shots in him after the threat was stopped.

This kind of case is why police officers are fond of saying, "we don't shoot to kill, we shoot to stop the threat." However, this may be a case where they shot (at least some of the shots) to kill. Then the question becomes: okay, what happens when a police officer does shoot to kill?

I have considerable sympathy for the first shots (except for the part about not clearing the backdrop and the apparent lack of sirens and lights). If Officer Torbit was murdered, or even just manslaughtered, it will be because too many shots were fired at him for too long a period of time after he no longer had his gun.

Right now the big issue in Baltimore is whether this will be an independent investigation, or an internal affairs investigation. Right now they seem to be leaning towards an internal investigation with external "review." They seem to be refusing to even consider the possibility that any of the police officers acted criminally. the ttechnical term for that is "stinky corruption."

Johnny Law said...

"If it winds up being murder then it will be because they put too many shots in him after the threat was stopped."

and

"However, this may be a case where they shot (at least some of the shots) to kill. Then the question becomes: okay, what happens when a police officer does shoot to kill?"

and of course:

"If Officer Torbit was murdered, or even just manslaughtered, it will be because too many shots were fired at him for too long a period of time after he no longer had his gun."

Oh man where to being? It's obvious you don't understand the dynamics of a gunfight. I hate people who count bullets like it means something.

There were multiple officers onscene and they were shooting at a man with a a gun. The training is to keep shooting until you stop the threat. I can empty a 15 round magazine in about 3 to 4 seconds if I pull the trigger fast enough.

Now imagine you are in a situation where you see a guy with a gun and you are in fear for your life. Between the combination of fear and adrenaline you are going to pull that trigger as fast as you can. Consider the time it takes for the bullets to hit the target, the target to react and drop the gun or fall, and factor in the time it takes for that to register in your brain and for you to react and stop shooting. That delay is more than enough time for you to empty your gun before you even can react to the threat being over.

Now factor in the fact that were multiple officers there going through the same thought process. Of course there are going to be multiple bullets fired. Once you understand the dynamics of the thing, it makes perfect sense.

It is ridiculous to expect an officer to fire one round then stop and assess the danger before firing again. When you are in fear for your life, you do what you have to.

As for that moronic comment about officers shooting to kill, they are trained to shoot at the center mass chest area because that is the biggest target and easiest to hit. It is a simple as that.